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Transcript: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 26, 2005 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a transcribed excerpt of 'FOX News Sunday,' June 26, 2005.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY' HOST CHRIS WALLACE: The Sunday Times of London reports that U.S. officials have held two secret meetings with insurgent commanders in Iraq. There were no breakthroughs in efforts to end the violence but more meetings are said to be planned.
New terror attacks in Iraq today. In the most serious incidents, at least 36 people were killed when two suicide bombers attacked locations near the town of Mosul.
And a congressional delegation spent Saturday at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. One Democrat who has called for the installation to be shut down said conditions have improved, and it was not the prison they had been hearing about for years.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and top Pentagon brass were grilled up on Capitol Hill this week about progress on the war in Iraq and treatment of terror prisoners. Our sole guest today is the secretary of defense.
Mr. Secretary, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Thank you.
Let's start with these reports of these direct meetings between U.S. officials, including allegedly a representative of the Pentagon, and insurgent commanders. Did they happen, and, if so, what did they accomplish?
RUMSFELD: Well, the first thing I would say about the meetings is they go on all the time.
Second, the Iraqis have a sovereign government. They will decide what their relationships with various elements of insurgents will be. We facilitate those from time to time.
And if you think about it, there aren't the good guys and the bad guys over there. There are people all across the spectrum.
There's the government, people who strongly support the government, people that are leaning and not quite sure what to do, people who are leaning the other way and not quite sure what to do, and then insurgents and people who oppose it, which is a mixture: There's the jihadists, there's the Zarqawi group, there are criminals, there's the Sunni Baathists (search) who would like to take back the government.
Meetings take place all the time...
WALLACE: Were there direct meetings with insurgent commanders?
RUMSFELD: Look, my understanding is that some London paper reported this and everyone's chasing it. I would not make a big deal out of it.
Meetings go on frequently with people. The wonderful thing about what's happened since the election is the Shias have said, "Let's reach out to the Sunnis."
The Sunnis made a mistake not participating in the election as fully as they could have. They now know that. They said they've made a mistake. They're leaning in.
The Shia could have said, "Well, you didn't play, you're out." They didn't. They said, "Let's get the Sunnis in. We want to have one country, the Kurds, the Shia, the Sunni."
WALLACE: But let me ask you specifically about these reports. Is there an effort — you talk about this, sort of, spectrum...
RUMSFELD: I can't comment on that.
WALLACE: But let me just ask you about this one specific idea. Is there an effort — you talk about the spectrum of groups — to try split off the homegrown insurgents from the foreign fighters, the Zarqawi group?
RUMSFELD: Well, sure, my goodness, yes. The first thing you want to do is split people off and get some people to be supportive.
The same thing's going on in Afghanistan. President Karzai is reaching out to the Taliban. He doesn't want those that have blood on their hands, but he is reaching out to the lower-level people and saying, "Look, let's have one country."
So I think the attention to this is overblown.
WALLACE: Let's take a look at the big picture. One of the main criticisms of the administration right now is that you and other top officials — this is the criticism — have painted too rosy a picture of the situation in Iraq.
As you well know, Vice President Cheney (search)has received a lot of attention for the following remarks, which we're putting up on the screen, about the enemy: "I think the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint I think will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
Since then, a lot of administration officials, including the president, have danced around that comment. I'm going to ask you for a direct — I'm going to ask a straight question and get a straight answer, I hope.
Is the insurgency in its last throes?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, everybody's running around trying to make a division between what the vice president said or someone else said.
The fact is that if you look at the context of his remarks, last throes could be a violent last throe, just as well as a placid or calm last throe. Look it up in the dictionary.
Now, is that any different from what General Abizaid (search) said or General Casey (search)? No.
I mean, the insurgency is going on. It ebbs and flows. At the moment, the insurgents know they have a great deal to lose. The election was a big success. There's political progress. There's economic progress. The insurgency's been about level. And the progress on the political side is so threatening to the insurgents that my guess is it could become more violent between now and the constitution referendum and the election in December.
But does progress on the political side suggest that the insurgency ultimately will lose? I believe so, and I believe that others believe that. If you think about it, that's what General Abizaid said and General Casey and General Myers all said yesterday, that they do not believe that there's a, quote, "quagmire" as people are trying to characterize it.
WALLACE: Well, here's why I think that perhaps it's more than just a semantic argument. People in this country, as you well know, Americans are wondering, "Are we winning, is the insurgency losing or not?" "Last throes" makes it sound like they're on the way out.
Let's take a look, though...
WALLACE: But let me just — if I may, sir, let's take a look at some of the hard numbers from Iraq, because they seem to paint a different picture. They're up on the screen here.
The number of daily attacks by insurgents averaged 57 a day the first two months of this year. Then dropped to 53 a day in March and April. Then rose to 70 a day in May. We have no numbers yet for June.
The number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action dipped in March and April, but has doubled the last two months, and June isn't even over yet. And the number of Iraqi military and police fatalities has climbed steadily this year.
We had Secretary Rice on last week, and she tried to make the same argument I think that you are, sir, that while the political progress — and there's no question there's been political progress. There's been an election, there's been the forming of a government, the forming of a constitutional committee.
But while all that's going on, the insurgency...
RUMSFELD: There's still violence.
WALLACE: ... seems to actually be on the increase.
RUMSFELD: It goes up and down. I think the level is about — it's about level actually in terms of the number of incidents. The lethality is up. There's no question but that the enemy is a thinking enemy, that their attacks are more lethal than they had been previously. They're killing a lot more Iraqis.
But if you think about the insurgency, they don't have any vision. There's no Ho Chi Minh, there's no Mao, there's no nationalistic — this is led by Zarqawi. He's a Jordanian and he's doing it not against a dictatorial government, he's doing it against an elected Iraqi government.
He's the enemy of the Iraqi people. He is going out and beheading people. He's killing dozens of Iraqis and Iraqi security forces.
You look at the polling data on the confidence that the Iraqi people have for the Iraqi security forces, and it's going up like this. And he's out attacking the institution that the Iraqi people have confidence in. And the Iraqi government, they have confidence in.
WALLACE: I want to turn to a different aspect...
RUMSFELD: Before do you, you said, "Even you, Secretary Rumsfeld, have been overly optimistic."
WALLACE: I said, no — I said that's the criticism.
RUMSFELD: That's false. I have not. I have been very balanced and measured.
This is a tough business. We understand that. It's difficult. It is not going to be easy. It wasn't easy for our country when we moved toward a democratic system. These people have no experience with democracy.
RUMSFELD: They're going to have to take a piece of paper and say that they're going to put their confidence in that piece of paper to protect them from the other ethnic groups in that country. That is a big step for them.
WALLACE: I want to turn to another aspect of this.
When we announced that you were going to be on the program, I got a phone call — unsolicited phone call, from a gentleman who had been a veteran of Vietnam, wounded twice in Vietnam, whose son is now serving in Iraq. And he said that he never thought that this country would fight another Vietnam, meaning send our troops over there without enough strength to win, but he said — this is his argument — that that's exactly what's going on in Iraq, that we are fighting another Vietnam in the sense that we don't have enough force to win. And then he said, the problem — and I'm going to quote him now — is, he said, "Rumsfeld tried to fight this on the cheap."
WALLACE: What do you say to that patriotic but very concerned father?
Well, I think you thank him first for his service, and then thank him for the service of his son. And then point out that this is not a decision I make; this is a decision that's made by the military commanders. General Franks, General Abizaid, General Casey have decided what those numbers are. They've recommended them to me. I've recommended them to the president. I agree with them. I think they're right.
I can understand some people would say, "Oh, there ought to be more," or, "There ought to be less." General Abizaid and General Casey are absolutely convinced, and said so publicly, that they would worry if there were more U.S. forces there, because it would require more force protection, more support troops, more targets, a heavier footprint, a more intrusive occupation force that would further alienate Iraqi people from the coalition forces and what they're trying to do.
Second, the implication of the question was that we don't have enough to win against the insurgency. We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.
Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency.
So, I regret that he feels that way. I am absolutely convinced that the general officers in charge of this, who've made those decisions, are correct.
If they came to us and said they needed more people, as they have, we've increased them. For the last election, when the violence went up, we increased them to 160,000. They're now down to 139,000. Why? Because the generals sent people home, and said they would prefer to have fewer people.
WALLACE: I want to look at another aspect of this. You took a lot of heat from Senator Kennedy this week, and we'll talk about that a little bit later, but my guess is that you were a lot more concerned about the comments from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, South Carolina. Let's watch what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: In the most patriotic state I could imagine, people are beginning to question. And I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen. I think we have a chronic problem on our hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Could we have a situation here — and I don't want to overdo the Vietnam analogies — where we're fighting and perhaps even winning on the battlefield, but we lose public support at home?
RUMSFELD: There is no question but that we're winning on the battlefield. There is not an instance where a strategic or a tactical engagement is lost by our forces. We have truly wonderful men and women over there doing a superb job.
There are polls that have suggested that support for the war has eroded some. You've been around a while. I've been around a while. We see polls go up and down, and if you start chasing polls, you're going to get seasick.
The task for the president and the government and the military leadership is to show that progress is being made, which it is: political progress, economic progress and security progress. I mean, there's no question but that the Iraqi security forces are getting better and better and have the confidence of the Iraqi people.
There's no doubt in my mind but that Senator Graham has a point, that some people are concerned, and they see the negative. They see the negative day after day in the press and on television, that people are dying.
But if you think about it, the terrorists are killing Iraqis in large numbers. That is not the way to win the support of the Iraqi people. That insurgency doesn't have a vision. They don't have a Mao or a Ho Chi Minh. They are foreigners trying to impose their will against an elected government in Iraq, and they're going to lose it. And between now and the constitution and the election, the violence could conceivably go up, because they're going to have so much to lose.
If that country were turned over to the people who do the beheading, and are out killing innocent men, women and children Iraqis, the region would suffer. If you think of the progress in Iraq, and the progress in Afghanistan, and the effect it's had with Libya turning in its nuclear weapons, its nuclear capability, what's taken place in Ukraine, a move with great sweep of histories for freedom — look at Kyrgyzstan, look at Lebanon; the Syrians are pulling out of Lebanon — that region, if we recognize the historic accomplishments that are being achieved, that region can be a dramatically different place five or 10 years from now, for the betterment of the world.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, we have to take a break here, but when we return much more for Secretary Rumsfeld on Guantanamo Bay, Karl Rove and Ted Kennedy — that's quite a trio. Back in a moment.
WALLACE: And we're back now with the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
On Friday, terrible tragedy. According to reports, four military women were killed in Fallujah, 11 more were injured. Given the nature of the conflict — the fact that there are no front lines — has that terrible tragedy changed your thinking at all about the deployment of women in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: No. You need women to deal with Iraqi women that are being searched or being interrogated. And these men and women that we have out there, all volunteers, are doing a truly wonderful job and our country is deeply in their debt.
It is always a tragedy when someone's killed or wounded, and certainly that's the case here. They happen to be some women in that unit, which they needed.
But you're right, it's an asymmetrical battlefield. But we have a policy. The policy is in place. And the men and the women are doing a superb job out there.
WALLACE: The Bush administration and you personally have come under fire recently for the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror. We've been having a running debate on this show about that. And the head of Amnesty International USA, William Schulz, called you an apparent high-level architect of torture. And here's how he explained it on this program. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM SCHULZ, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA: Those who authorized it or encouraged it or provided rationales for it, or in the case of Rumsfeld provided the exact rules — 27 of them, in fact, for interrogation, some of which do constitute torture or cruel, inhumane treatment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, how do you respond?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I'm not a lawyer but the president and the attorney general decided that — after 9/11 — that putting terrorists into the Article III of our Constitution criminal justice system as though they were car thieves or people who — bank robbers or something like that, who need to be taken off the street and punished and then released — wasn't the way to do it; that we needed to use military commissions.
And that the purpose of that was that you needed to keep them away from the battlefield, number one. And number two, you needed to find out information from them that would prevent further attacks.
That decision was made by the president. And we are implementing it on behalf of the country.
I think it's the right decision. It is debatable. People are arguing it and discussing it, and it's being contested in the courts, and that's fine.
Some people contend that by doing that, you keep people in and they don't have a date certain when they can get out because they haven't been sentenced as such. That's always been true with prisoners of war. There's nothing new there.
There are some people who contend that it is torture — tantamount to torture to keep people in without having a date when they can be released. I don't happen to agree with that.
The fact of the matter is these are bad people, these are suicide bombers, these are murderers. This is the 20th hijacker from 9/11 down there. These are people who are out to kill people.
We've released hundreds from Guantanamo Bay. And we've already found 12 of them back on the battlefield trying to kill innocent men, women and children.
So it is a new environment. It's understandable that there would be debate about it. But the implication in that is clearly not correct.
WALLACE: But let me ask you, I mean, there's certainly one question, the legal question, as to whether they should be detained, what their status should be. There's another question, which is the specific treatment that they have undergone.
The International Committee on the Red Cross, which is the only independent group that has been given regular access to Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities, according to a news report late last year, they complained to U.S. officials — and here it is — about psychological and physical treatment, quote, "tantamount to torture: humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions, some beatings."
And then there was also — and this is what Dick Durbin (search) was talking about — an FBI agent who said that he went in and saw several prisoners who had been chained hand and foot to the door in fetal positions, forced to defecate on themselves, chained in those positions for 18, 24 hours or more.
Question: Does that happen?
RUMSFELD: First of all, the president insisted that all prisoners, detainees, be treated humanely. I have issued instructions from the very beginning that all prisoners be treated humanely.
WALLACE: Did these kinds of things happen?
RUMSFELD: Just a minute.
Those are allegations. We have investigated something like 309 instances of alleged abuse of one type or another. There have been, I believe, 50 convictions of people for not obeying the rules that have been established.
The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being treated humanely. They have been. The suggestion that people have been killed down there is false. They are being fed better than American troops, more expensively, because of their dietary...
WALLACE: But,sir, I'm not asking about that. I'm asking about these specific cases, which I assume you've heard...
RUMSFELD: Every one have been investigated. And the ones where anything wrong occurred, people have been punished, whether they're a general officer or whether it's another type — a colonel or whatever or a sergeant or a private. They've all been punished.
WALLACE: Would you regard the kinds of things that were alleged by ICRC and the FBI agent — would you regard those as torture?
RUMSFELD: The first thing I would say is that it was the ICRC that at one point, I believe, said that it is tantamount to torture, as you quoted, to keep people in jail without...
WALLACE: Yes, but I'm not asking about that.
RUMSFELD: ...I'm telling you, though — without telling them when they're going to get out. Do I think that's torture? No.
WALLACE: Do you think this is torture?
RUMSFELD: I think anyone who is beaten is — call it what you want, it's a beating. And it shouldn't happen. And people have been instructed to treat people humanely. And to the extent it has happened, people have been punished and convicted in a court martial, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
So the idea that there's any policy of abuse or policy of torture is false. Flat false.
WALLACE: We are beginning to run out of time. There are several other issues I want to talk to you about, so if I might, let's do a lightning round where I ask you quick questions and get relatively quick answers from you, sir.
The hard-line mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has won a landslide victory as president of Iran. What do you know about him?
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I think leaving the American people with the impression that it was an election that was valid — there were over 1,000 candidates that were disqualified, that weren't even allowed to run. So the fact that they had a mock election and elected a hard-liner ought not come to any surprise to anybody because all the other people were told they couldn't run; it's against the law.
Now, I don't know much about this fellow. He's young. I've read backgrounds on him. But he is no friend of democracy. He's no friend of freedom. He is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs, who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives. And my guess is over time, the young people and the women will find him, as well as his masters, unacceptable.
WALLACE: Presidential adviser Karl Rove has made some comments recently that upset a lot of Democrats. Let's take a look at them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, did you see a political difference in the way Americans responded to the attack on 9/11?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think the — what he was talking about there I think was moveon.org and Michael Moore, or whatever his name is; these people who have, clearly have a different view from the administration.
And I think the point he's making there is the one I raised earlier, which is that central question is, ought we to be using Article III of the constitution and the criminal justice system in the United States or ought we to be using the tribunals and the military commission and the process that is used at Guantanamo?
And that's an issue that's worth debating and there's no doubt that many people favored indictments, as he suggested, as opposed to putting people — murderers, suicide bombers, bodyguards for Usama bin Laden, who killed 3,000 Americans, the 20th hijacker, putting them in a place where they can get information from them and prevent future attack.
There's no question but that the information that's been gleaned has saved American lives and other lives around the world.
WALLACE: Several Democratic senators want electronic intercepts that John Bolton, the president's nominee for U.N. ambassador, asked for in which the names of Americans are mentioned. The NSA, the National Security Agency, which made the intercepts, comes under your control as secretary of defense.
Not a political question: Is there any national security reason why a single U.S. senator should not be granted access to that material?
RUMSFELD: Well, obviously, or the White House would not have made that decision.
This is a matter of — you're well aware of the issues involved. There's privilege issues.
But let's say that an intelligence document comes along to your desk and you're a government official. And it says in there an unnamed American was referenced. Now, if you're the president or somebody else reading that, you don't need to — it doesn't matter to you who that is. You don't ask. If you do ask, you could say, "Well, who is that unnamed American?" Because they don't name them because we tend not to do that. And a single person can ask that question and get an answer. There are perfectly legitimate reasons for doing that.
If every question that's asked of the intelligence community by any official of government is then provided willy-nilly out to the public and to the Congress, I think there's a perfectly good reason for the president to make that decision, and for the executive branch to be concerned about that, because it would stifle internal examination or analysis or discussion. So there are good reasons.
In this case, I'm not in a position to say, because I don't happen to know who was involved.
WALLACE: Finally, you took quite a going-over from Senator Kennedy up on the Hill this week. I'm not sure you want to revisit that, but I'm going to make you. Let's take a look. This may be torture. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, D-MASS.: You basically have mismanaged the war and created an impossible situation for military recruiters, and put our forces and our national security in danger. In baseball, it's three strikes and you're out. What is it for the secretary of defense?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You have been in this town almost 50 years, I counted that.
RUMSFELD: I came in with Kennedy.
WALLACE: You have written what are called Rummy's Rules.
What do you think to yourself as you're sitting there at the congressional hearing, and you hear yourself getting knocked about that way?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, it's been so in every war in our history: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam. There are no popular wars. So it comes with the territory.
In this case, it would have been nice if you'd shown General Casey. I mean, the essence of his remark was we're in a quagmire, the Vietnam word. That's what Senator Kennedy was doing.
Now, Senator Casey spoke and said we're not in a quagmire.
WALLACE: General Casey.
RUMSFELD: General Casey. General Myers spoke and said we're not in a quagmire. General Abizaid spoke and said we're not in a quagmire.
We have three experts who are in and out of Iraq or live there and this fellow, I don't believe he's ever been there. We've had 57 senators go to Iraq, but has he been there? Not my knowledge.
WALLACE: But as a former college wrestler...
RUMSFELD: Wouldn't it be interesting if you quoted some of the generals who had very strong views on how wrong he was on everything he said...
WALLACE: We have their boss on right here. But as a former college wrestler, did you think to yourself, "I'd like to put this guy in a headlock"?
RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness no. I've known him forever. He does that. And I'm not supposed to get into politics.
WALLACE: Oh, you're in politics, sir.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for coming and answering all our questions. Please come back again, sir.
RUMSFELD: Thank you.
This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.